INDISCREET LETTERS FROM PEKING***
E-text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Sankar Viswanathan, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net/)
INDISCREET LETTERS FROM PEKING
Being the Notes of an Eye-Witness, Which Set Forth in Some Detail, from Day to Day, the Real Story of the Siege and Sack of a Distressed Capital in 1900--the Year of Great Tribulation
B.L. PUTNAM WEALE
Author of "Manchu and Muscovite," and "The Re-shaping of the Far East."
Shanghai Kelly and Walsh, Limited British Empire and Continental Copyright Excepting Scandinavian Countries by Putnam Weale from 1921
PART I--THE WARNING
I FRAGMENTS II MUTTERINGS III OVERCAST SKIES IV OUR GUARDS ARRIVE V THE PLOT THICKENS VI THE LICKING FLAMES APPROACH VII THE CITY OF PEKING AND ALL ITS GLORIES VIII SOME INCIDENTS AND THE ONE MAN IX THE COMING OF THE BOXERS X BARRICADES AND RELIEFS XI SOME MEN AND THINGS XII HELL HOUNDS XIII A FEW CRUMBS XIV THE ULTIMATUM XV THE DEBACLE BEGINS
PART II--THE SIEGE
I CHAOS II THE RETREAT AND THE RETURN III FIRES AND FOOD IV THE BONDS TIGHTEN V THE MYSTERIOUS BOARD OF TRUCE VI SHELLS AND SORTIES VII THE HOSPITAL AND THE GRAVEYARD VIII THE FAILURE IX AN INTERLUDE X THE GUNS XI SNIPING XII THE GALLANT FRENCH XIII THE BRITISH LEGATION BASE XIV THE EVER-GROWING CASUALTY LIST XV THE ARMISTICE XVI THE RESUMPTION OF A SEMI-DIPLOMATIC LIFE XVII DIPLOMACY CONTINUES XVIII THE UNREST GROWS AND DIPLOMACY CONTINUES XIX THE FIRST REAL NEWS XX THE THIRD PHASE CONTINUES XXI MORE DIPLOMACY XXII THE WORLD BEYOND OUR BRICKS XXIII TRIFLES XXIV DIPLOMATIC CONFIDENCES XXV THE PLOT AGAIN THICKENS XXVI MORE MESSENGERS XXVII THE ATTACKS RESUMED XXVIII THE THIRTEENTH XXIX THE NIGHT OF THE THIRTEENTH XXX HOW I SAW THE RELIEF
PART III-THE SACK
I THE PALACE II THE SACK III THE SACK CONTINUES IV CHAOS V SETTLING DOWN VI THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT VII THE FEW REMAINS VIII THE PALSY REMAINS IX DRIFTING X PICKING UP THREADS XI THE IMPOSSIBLE XII SUSPENSE XIII STILL DRIFTING XIV PUNITIVE EXPEDITIONS XV THE CLIMAX XVI THE END
The publication of these letters, dealing with the startling events which took place in Peking during the summer and autumn of 1900, at this late date may be justified on a number of counts. In the first place, there can be but little doubt that an exact narrative from the pen of an eye-witness who saw everything, and knew exactly what was going on from day to day, and even from hour to hour, in the diplomatic world of the Chinese capital during the deplorable times when the dread Boxer movement overcast everything so much that even in England the South African War was temporarily forgotten, is of intense human interest, showing most clearly as it does, perhaps for the first time in realistic fashion, the extraordinary _bouleversement_ which overcame everyone; the unpreparedness and the panic when there was really ample warning; the rivalry of the warring Legations even when they were almost _in extremis_, and the curious course of the whole seige itself owing to the division of counsels among the Chinese--this last a state of affairs which alone saved everyone from a shameful death. In the second place, this account may dispel many false ideas which still obtain in Europe and America regarding the position of various Powers in China--ideas based on data which have long been declared of no value by those competent to judge. In the third place, the vivid and terrible description of the sack of Peking by the soldiery of Europe, showing the demoralisation into which all troops fall as soon as the iron hand of discipline is relaxed, may set finally at rest the mutual recriminations which have since been levelled publicly and privately. Everybody was tarred with the same brush. Those arm-chair critics who have been too prone to state that brutalities no longer mark the course of war may reconsider their words, and remember that sacking, with all the accompanying excesses, is still regarded as the divine right of soldiery unless the provost-marshal's gallows stand ready. In the fourth place, those who still believe that the representatives assigned to Eastern countries need only be second-rate men--reserving for Europe the master-minds--may begin to ask themselves seriously whether the time has not come when only the most capable and brilliant diplomatic officials--men whose intelligence will help to shape events and not be led by them, and who will act with iron firmness when the time for such action comes--should be assigned to such a difficult post as Peking. In the fifth place, the strange idea, which refuses to be eradicated, that the Chinese showed themselves in this Peking seige once and for all incompetent to carry to fruition any military plan, may be somewhat corrected by the plain and convincing terms in which the eye-witness describes the manner in which they stayed their hand whenever it could have slain, and the silent struggle which the Moderates of Chinese politics must have waged to avert the catastrophe by merely gaining time and allowing the Desperates to dash themselves to pieces when the inevitable swing of the pendulum took place. Finally, it will not escape notice that many remarks borne out all through the narrative tend to show that British diplomacy in the Far East was at one time at a low ebb.